Posts Tagged ‘binge eating’

How Your Lower Brain Hooks You Into Bingeing

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

lower brain urgesA while ago I had the pleasure of talking to author Kathryn Hansen about her book, Brain Over Binge.

We talked about how the lower part of our brain gives us messages based on a strong drive for survival. We may get messages to eat unnecessarily large quantities of food… too much for our bodies, but seemingly never enough for our misguided brains.

Why is it so hard to recognize the voice of our lower brain? And how exactly does it ‘hook us’ into believing that there is a real, immediate need, and we’d better load up on food, NOW?

The lower brain is very tricky.

It sends us messages that really sound like it’s our true self that has this need.

If you’re working hard, and are tired or stressed, you might hear yourself think, ‘Oh, let me just have one cookie. I’ve been working so hard! I certainly deserve it!’

Doesn’t that sound believable?

If you have been staying conscious of what you’ve been eating, you might hear your animal brain say, ‘Oh come on, take a break! I hate having to think so hard about what I do!’

It can be really hard to distinguish your lower brain’s voice from the voice of your true self.

So here’s what you can do.

Let’s assume that you truly do want to stop bingeing.

Some people don’t.

But most do… so if you really want to stop, then just know that any excuse you think of to binge or to indulge without hunger is the voice of your lower brain.

Because these voices are not aligned with what your higher self really wants.

Our goal in breaking free from binges is to begin to hear your lower brain’s messages, and then choose to ignore them. We can notice them, and label them as ‘neurological junk’… not worthy of any attention. Just some brain messages from faulty wiring.

But, in order to dismiss these urges as neurological junk, we first need to recognize them.

I suggest that you start a list of your lower brain’s top 10 hooks.

Here are some examples:

  1. Just have a piece of cake! You can always start a diet tomorrow.
  2. You’ve been so good… just give this food to yourself.
  3. So what if you binge, it’s not that big a deal.
  4. You’re so tired, there’s so much to do… take a break and live it up!
  5. It’s not fair that I have to watch what I eat.

And so on…

Make a list of your own usual reasons for overeating.

Jot them down and look them over.

And the next time you hear that voice in your head with one of your top 10 excuses, you will know it’s just your lower brain trying to get you to do what you’ve always done.

Which has been to give in to the urge.

But you are in charge.

That lower brain can give you an urge to eat, but it can’t physically make you eat.

That choice is always up to you.

Start here. And learn to recognize the voice and the words that hook you.

What If Your Binges Weren’t Your Fault?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

binges and the brainWhat if your binges weren’t your fault?

What if it were simply the way your brain functioned?

And that you could stop binges at any time?

If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not.

If you’ve been listening to the news and doing some reading, you probably already know that interest in brain science and developments in brain science are at an all-time high.

Research has shown us that our brains have neuroplasticity… the ability to change. And this change can be seen, literally, with brain scans.

So what this means for people with compulsive behaviors, like compulsive eating, binge eating and obsessive thoughts and actions, is that these behaviors can be stopped.

Without drugs.

Without therapy.

Here’s the very simplified story:

Our brain has many parts… for the purpose of this discussion, let’s view the brain as having two main parts… the Higher Brain and the Lower Brain.

The Higher Brain is the part that we think of as our True Self, or the Human Brain. It is in the front and top of our brain, and controls rational thought, voluntary motor functions and logic, among other things.

The Animal Brain is lower, and is found in most living things… you may have also heard it being called the Reptilian Brain. It’s responsible for our survival… it tells us what we need to survive and acts in a very routine, programmed way.

How does this affect your eating?

Let’s say, like millions of Americans, you’ve dieted in your lifetime. Dieting can trigger the Lower Brain to urge you to eat, and eat, and eat. Why? Because it thinks by dieting that you might be starving, and its job is to keep you alive.

Eventually, over time, the urge to overeat to compensate for undereating becomes a habit. Guess what part of the brain handles this habit?

The Lower/Animal Brain.

And once these neural connections are made, that part of the brain will urge you to overeat, or binge eat. The feeling of ‘having to’ keep eating doesn’t come from your stomach, once you are physically satisfied. But many of us keep on eating because of that desperate false message we are getting from our Animal Brain.

It can feel extremely urgent that you eat. And continue to eat. And it feels like you have absolutely no choice.

So you give in.

And each time you give in to the binges, you are strengthening those pathways in that part of your brain.

When you are not hungry and you hear that inner voice telling you to go have ALL the cookies in the house, that message you are getting is just the way your brain has been programmed for survival.

And after a binge, most people vow to eat much less the next day, which again gives the Lower Brain the message that you are starving. So you keep on making these urges strong.

It can feel like you are trapped, with no way out.

The interesting thing is that even though the Lower Brain is giving you these inappropriate and unnecessary urges to eat, it actually can’t make you do a thing.

It can’t make you get up and go to the fridge.

It can’t make you order pizza.

And it can’t make you put anything in your mouth.

That’s because it’s your Higher Brain that controls your voluntary movement. Although it may feel like you are out of control, the rational part of you is always in control.

And there is a way to change this.

I’ve been using these concepts for months now myself and with my clients and have seen amazing results.

The Secret Life of the Binge Eater

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Brain Over BingeAre you a secret binge eater?

There are many definitions of binge eating… it can be an actual eating disorder, or it can  describe  the behavior of many of my clients:

  • Eating large amounts of food
  • A couple of times a week
  • Feeling out of control, like you have no choice
  • And always with great regret and distress.

Is this you?

I am seeing more and more brilliant clients who are secretly obeying a strong urge to eat large quantities of food fairly often.

These women are eating compulsively… they get an urge to eat and once they start, the eating takes on a life of its own.

They are always disgusted with themselves and fear that something is wrong with them.

I know how they feel.

Because binge eating is something I used to do myself.

Many things can trigger a big eating session, and it’s hard to pinpoint and deal with each trigger.

So to deal with my own pain and the shame and pain of my clients, I researched and found some incredible answers in the world of brain science.

One of my favorite books about this behavior is Brain Over Binge, by Kathryn Hansen. Kathryn is not a coach, a psychologist or a researcher.

But she is someone who is fully recovered from Binge Eating Disorder, and has shared her story of recovery in the form of a memoir.

If you’ve ever felt like your eating was out of control, that once you started you couldn’t stop, or that you ate tremendous quantities of food, unrelated to your size or your hunger, you need to read this book.

I’ll be writing about binge eating for the month of September, so keep reading.

I’m here to help.


How Your Interpretation of Life Can Cause You to Overeat

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

OvereatIf you’re anything like most of the women I talk to, you overeat.

For some of us it’s an occasional event.

For others, it’s a regular thing.

And for still others, not only is it a regular happening in your life, but it’s frequent, it feels very ‘out of control’ and it might be considered binge eating.

In any case, when you eat without hunger, you’re giving your body more food than it needs.

And that extra food will be stored as fat.

So, why do we do it?

Here’s what I hear:

  • I was tired!
  • I needed a treat after working so hard.
  • I’m upset about _____ and food comforts me.
  • My boss was in a foul mood today.
  • My kids are driving me crazy!
  • ______ is a rough time of day for me.

You know the list can go on and on. And I’m sure you can add your own personal favorite top ten reasons for overeating to this list.

Here’s some truth:

NONE of those ‘reasons’ caused you to overeat.

None of them.

It’s your thoughts about those events that drive your overeating. It’s how you interpret those events.

I can hear you now, loud and clear, protesting:

  • “No really!! If I wasn’t working so hard, I wouldn’t need the extra dessert!”
  • “If my boss was in a better mood I’d never come home and pull up a chair to my fridge.”
  • “If my kids got good grades, I wouldn’t zone out with potato chips.”

Nice try.

But you are all busted.

None of what you’re saying is true.

  • Your work doesn’t make you overeat. Your thoughts about your work do. If you think ‘I shouldn’t have to work so hard!’ and you feel burdened and overwhelmed, you might overeat to numb the pain and get some (very) short term relief.
  • Your boss’ mood doesn’t make you overeat. But your thoughts about your boss do. If you think ‘He should be nicer to me, this isn’t fair!’, then you might feel stressed and hopeless or even angry, and you might eat to dull those feelings.
  • Your kids’ grades don’t make you overeat either. But if you think ‘I’m a bad mother; I should have helped my kids with their schoolwork more’, then your feelings of guilt and shame might lead you to some fast, false relief. Like ice cream and cookies.

All events are neutral.

It’s what you make the event mean, or how you interpret it that makes you feel an uncomfortable feeling. This uncomfortable feeling might lead you to an unplanned food festival.

You can change this.

So, what can you do to stop letting life events and circumstances rule your eating?

  1. First, recognize that your brain is doing this. All the time. It’s taking bits of information from the world around you and interpreting it for you. Generally, this is a pretty efficient thing your brain does. The problem is you may have trained your brain to interpret life in a negative way. Which causes you to feel bad. And then take actions that aren’t really in your best interest. Like overeating.
  2. Second, question all assumptions that seem to be leading to an uncomfortable feeling. Is it really true that my boss should be in a great mood? Why? Why do I need that to happen in order to feel good? Can I feel good without my boss changing? Can I feel good even if my kids get poor grades? (Hint: yes!!)
  3. And last, set an intention to use food mostly for hunger, and for some pleasure too. But not to feel better from a story you are telling yourself.

Are you hungry?

If yes, then eat.

If not, then look at the thoughts that are urging you to eat.

And remind yourself that these are just stories in your mind about neutral circumstances.